NORTH HAVEN – Step off the Captain Neil Burgess and try to find the signs of a very successful fall sports season. If there was a banner congratulating the community school’s rowing team for its performance at the Icebreaker races in Massachusetts, it was well hidden.
No placard posted in a window praising Charlie Jones’ finishes in the Maine cross country championship and the New Englands was visible along the route of nearly two miles from the ferry dock to the school. The senior has been a team of one, representing North Haven Community School for five years.
No public notice acknowledging Zeb Campbell’s commitment to sitting day after day in a small outboard for the trip to the neighboring island of Vinalhaven and back. Campbell was a freshman soccer player without a home team. He joined the Vinalhaven varsity.
Make no mistake. This year-round community of 350 is proud of the accomplishments of its sons and daughters. Probably because they know each of them so well. With only 16 students in grades 9-12, North Haven is the smallest member of the Maine Principals’ Association.
“It’s not like everybody talks about (what we’ve done),” said Leta Hallowell, “but everybody knows.”
She’s the junior coxswain of Recovery, a 32-foot-long six-oared pilot gig modeled after boats that worked the Atlantic off the coast of Cornwall, England, some 200 years ago. A dozen North Haven students of John Dietter finished the boat in 2000.
Two weeks ago, North Haven hauled Recovery to the Icebreaker, an all-day, round-robin competition hosted by the Hull (Mass.) Lifesaving Museum. North Haven finished second to archrival Vinalhaven among 21 teams from throughout the Northeast in the open-class nautical mile. A good finish but not completely satisfying.
“We’re passionate about rowing,” said Abi Campbell. “It’s a tradition that’s been passed down when you think of our island and the students who built Recovery. It’s pretty cool.”
The six girls and two boys who make up Tammy Brown’s team didn’t row 2,000 miles this season to finish second. On the water at 7 a.m., off an hour later before school. So cold sometimes, they would have to remove ice. So cold they would peel off layers of outerwear as they warmed up.
After a season of competition, including races off the Vermont shoreline of Lake Champlain, the Icebreaker was their race of champions. After their runner-up finish in the nautical mile they were, in the words of one of the crew, “excited but exhausted.”
Charlie Jones knows the feeling. He finished seventh in the Class C race, qualifying for the New England cross country championships in Vermont. He finished 122nd there. The satisfaction of reaching that level of competition was all his. The loneliness and pain were all his, too.
Jones would stretch and warm up with several middle-school runners in front of Coach Herb Parsons’ seasonal gift shop across from the ferry dock, but his training runs were solitary. “You can get so much mental help when people are with you all the way,” said Jones. “You learn how to do that by yourself.”
On the mainland, runners can vary their training runs simply for changes in scenery. On the island, Jones mostly trained on the nine-hole North Haven Golf Club with its breathtaking views of Penobscot Bay and nearby Vinalhaven.
Ken Jones, who is the art teacher, physical education instructor and athletic director for all of the 63 K-12 students, tried to encourage his son. Charlie was pushing himself even harder this fall. Ken told Charlie he would not feel more pain in a more beautiful place.
Charlie Jones has been a track team of one, too. He did play basketball but this year will run indoor track at meets that accept one-person teams.
He’s not looking forward to the 70-minute crossings.
“Ferry rides in winter are not a lot of fun. I still get seasick.”
Everyone on North Haven knows Charlie Jones, which has its rewards. “It’s a very close community. It’s nice to hear people congratulate you when you see them.” Sometimes he feels he must explain why he didn’t meet expectations. “That’s difficult.”
College awaits. He may follow his sister, Kelsey, to Colby. Dartmouth and Williams may be options.
Zeb Campbell won’t miss the open boat rides to Vinalhaven for soccer practice and games. Although truth be told, he was on the water for only 30 seconds, sometimes a minute. It was another 20 minutes by car to the high school on the other side of the island.
“If it rained, practice was usually called off before I left,” said Campbell. “I got soaked once (in the boat.)”
Vinalhaven just missed the Class D playoffs this year. Campbell, who started at midfield but was moved to striker, was recognized for his efforts.
In the big picture this fall, North Haven didn’t win double championships like Yarmouth’s achievement in football and soccer. It isn’t a powerhouse like Scarborough, for instance. On the ferry back to Rockland, Laura Venger, a North Haven teacher, sat next to me. “Are you going to write about the boys’ basketball team? They’ve got 10 players this year!”
Success is always relative.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: